Certified in 1979, CUPE 2278 is a local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The local is run by volunteer teaching assistants who are elected each year by the membership of the local. CUPE 2278 represents UBC teaching assistants, markers, tutors, and instructors at the English Language Institute and is composed of both undergraduate and graduate students. They have roughly 3,000 members. On October 30th, CUPE 2278 activated its strike mandate with a rotating job action, rather than a full work stoppage. Over the last week, the union has been picketing various buildings on campus and on November 6th, they entered into mediation with the University and a third party mediator, Vince Ready. On November 7th, the bargaining committee announced that they had reached a tentative agreement with UBC to renew the collective agreement.
We examine this current labour struggle in the city. On November 2nd, The City spoke with CUPE 2278 executive members Michael Stewart and Glynnis Kirchmeier, as well as Sage Ponder and Roger Clark. We discuss why the union is currently engaged in a job action within the global and local contexts of neoliberalism and labour mobilizations. Additionally, we discuss how UBC – and universities, generally – are adopting corporate strategies and operating more like businesses than public institutions of higher learning.
Note: This interview was taped prior to the November 7th announcement that a tentative agreement had been reached, and therefore, the discussion does not reflect this recent development.